Monday, 20 March 2017

Arbury Road - Hedge to Facilitate Cycle Lane, part 3

Things moving a LOT faster than I anticipated.

So rather than September for the hedge replanting, they want to do it NOW.

Which is a bit hurried, considering how long such processes usually take. Its not a lot of consultation period - but I'm determined to be positive and get this right.

I'll reiterate - if we're going to lose our old hedges for building a new cycle lane, I'll support that based on getting better hedges and better cycle routes. The two are not incompatible, but we've got to get this right.

So here are my last couple of communications with city deal folk...

Hi xxxx,

I eventually managed to have a chat with the SMR folk and they're happy that any archaeology under the hedge there is likely to be a bit deeper than the digging is going to go - there's quite likely to be something worth seeing at this end of Cambridge but its not likely to be disturbed by the current plans so while they'll probably have an (informal) look down the holes they've no need to get involved in the process. I'll keep them informed as to the timetable as it becomes clear.

Looking at the list of species - I would suggest that while the native mix looks good, I'm a little concerned by the presence of dogwood and spindle - neither are commonly used in hedging in Cambridge so I wouldn't call them at all locally appropriate, and while dogwoods do well pretty much everywhere spindle struggles in North Cambridge soil so I'd leave that out. The problem with dogwood is that the berries are among the few toxic ones that children have a tendency to chew on - not deadly but deeply unpleasant when it happens. The ornamental ones much favoured by the City Council don't usually get to the point of producing many berries, so they don't cause such a problem as they're cut right back to the stump frequently. I'm also curious to know the ratio of trees - presumably the bulk of trees planted will be hawthorn, what ratios do the other trees go in?

One common component of hedges here not yet included is dog rose - superb for wildlife so if that can be sourced too it would be a much more appropriate addition than spindle. Again, local biodiversity ought to be favoured (wild Rosa in the UK is a complicated genus, and there's a lot to be said for finding local strains) and I might struggle for space to take cuttings to naturalise them myself - if I can take cuttings, can you find somewhere to grow them on?

If you find birds nesting there (there are already blackbirds nesting in my front garden) will this project be pushed back? Presumably thats the purpose of the ecology search you've proposed?

Lastly, with regard to specimen trees, again to keep things 'local' I would suggest that in addition to the greengage and apple trees (varieties suggested tend to fruit early and not create a winter slip-hazard more ornamental Malus cause) locally common small/medium sized feature trees in hedges that are good for wildlife and look good are cherry plum, cherry, and rowan, and for a bit of fun if its possible to add service trees (such as already exist around the corner on Carlton Way) thats another thats great for wildlife. As for larger specimen trees (if they're planned) there's not really a heritage of 'big' trees at this end of Cambridge, most of the land having been open grazing/farm land until enclosure so there aren't many really old trees to base this on. One of the trees that surprisingly thrives here is Turkey oak - there are many large specimens in the woods on the other side of the guided bus route. So I'd go with those. Lime, plane and of course sycamore also do well here - but I'd suggest they're trees Cambridge also has lots of so I'd steer clear of those.

It'll be tough to get this under way so quickly, so I'll have another scour to see whats worth saving this afternoon,



Dear xxxx,

Text of last email I sent xxxx enclosed below.

Brief version - according to county Arcaheology folk anything remaining of the old field boundary ought to be buried quite deep like most of the rest of the interesting archaeology at our end of the city, but being archaeology enthusiasts and a couple of them living at this end of the town they're planning an informal look down the holes (like they did with the lighting scheme recently). There's no need for delays on their account, at least it doesn't look like it.

The plant list is pretty good with the exception of spindle and dogwood and perhaps alder buckthorn. Spindle isn't a traditional component of hedges in this part of Cambridgeshire - I can't think of an example in any old hedgerow in or around North Cambridge. This might be because the traditional uses of the wood aren't particularly common here, and it could be because its a tree that rarely thrives here - it does ok when you get South of Cambridge but on the ground up glacial clay subsoil we've got at the North end of the City it doesn't do so well. Dogwood does ok, but its also not a traditional component of hedging in this part of the city and, crucially, the berries are among the few wild berries kids will chew on and do themselves harm. I wouldn't put it anywhere near the route to a school. As for alder buckthorn yes, its sometimes in hedges North of Cambridge but its happier with wet feet - I can't think of any examples on well drained soil. You're therefore looking at excessive time and effort getting this one established so I'd avoid it.

As for replacing these, I've already suggested dog rose (a superb hedging plant and common here) and cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera - grows superbly as a hedging plant and common here). These plants combine practicality and tradition without any toxicity so there's a lot to be said for them. I'd also say that the Malus (Chivers Delight) and greengage (Cambridge Gage) needn't be thought of as specimen trees, they'll be happy in a hedge too - there's a gage that I believe to be Cambridge Gage there already, replacing with more would be fitting.

Lastly, I'm taking some samples of local undergrowth - the more interesting perennials rather than the annuals and biennials (which will be back, there will be loads of seeds in the soil) to establish in my garden for re-wilding. Nothing spreading, but it would be a shame to lose the snowdrops, violet and white violets, crow garlic etc. I'll have samples by Wednesday and I'll re-wild later, alongside other locally sourced wild plants that'll bring some diversity back. That'll take a year or two of adding in what I can get growing - I'd take it as a favour if you turn a blind eye to the technically illegal removal of wild plants (that are about to be destroyed anyway!).

By for now,

and then...

Much appreciated xxxx. Yes, I phoned Grant this morning because I'll confess I'm a little baffled by the pace of this - the previous consultation discussed trying to keep the hedging we have, and I did enquire from the cycling planning people at the County about this in Autumn and no decision had been taken. So to go from first sign of this (coloured paint on the ground) to digging out and replacing over the course of a few weeks seems very, very hurried. We've gone from no direct plan to remove and replace the hedging to having to specify plants for imminent replacement in a very short time and I do have some concerns that the first many residents will have heard about this would be in the letter dated the 15th - which, of course, most people won't have had time to look at until the weekend.

Thanks for taking input on replanting - I'm hoping that by getting this right first time we'll not have to continually patch the hedge up over the next couple of years, so getting species in there with a proven track record of performing well locally seems crucial to me,


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